Avinoam Shalem

Mar 2019

My overall impression of the class was mediocre. Professor Shalem invented the banchode theory of Islamic art for he is widely known in the Islamic coffee shop community. He has also made countless publications. However, I would not take his class because I did not understand his broken English and found the subject tedious and unfruitful.

Dec 2018

Shalem was passionate about teaching islamic art, but don't take this class if you have any respect for yourself or intelligence. This course was devoid of any meaningful learning experience and a total waste of time and brain. With other courses to choose from, there was absolutely no reason to go through this masochistic and dumb experience.

Nov 2018

This guy is clearly a brilliant, educated man. that is why it is hard to even understand how he could make such strong political remarks so swiftly. he loves what he does and you can easily see that. the reason I took him is because I love Islam and I wanted to see the cultural side of the religion. I wanted to know purely the art. and that is what this class is supposed to be about. If you are studying islam, architecture, middle east, art, or anything of that sort.. its a beautiful class to take. BUT... If you do not have a sensitive ear, you probably won't even notice but i did professor shalem is very anti-israel, which is okay. that is his opinion but he makes sure to incorporate it in any way possible into his classroom setting. he does it so nonchalantly and in a sarcastic manner that one wouldn't even be able to argue against him because its presented as a "joke." being the only israeli in the class, many times i felt devastated by his remarks. he takes a beautiful subject and puts his political opinions into it. calling israel an imperialist elitist country that took arab styles of art, architecture, and other things (such as falafel--i kid you not) and says the israelis renamed it as their own. AGAIN, i did not have a problem with his opinion. Ive heard them all. But just be prepared because I wasn't. this is supposed to be an art hum class, not politics. I was very disappointed.

Jan 2015

There are both good and bad to the class, but as it's Prof. Shalem's first year teaching I think it will be a year or two before the kinks in the course are fully ironed out. Prof. Shalem is nice enough as a teacher, and the course is okay. You should take this course if you're interested in doing a non-Western elective as an Art History major because the workload isn't bad. However, I don't recommend this course for non-Art History majors who are looking to fulfill a core requirement. There are far more engaging courses than this one for someone who wants to take an 'insteresting elective,' and your grades will just suffer because you're going to be competing against art history majors who have experience in memorizing and regurgitating slides and writing art history papers. All in all, this course is very meh. I wouldn't say it's bad, but it's sort of not very well organized and also not overwhelmingly exciting. Lectures generally involve him going over around 50 slides (a pretty reasonable number) that are loosely focused on a specific time period or theme. However, because he seems to have this aversion to making very concrete arguments as a result of what I imagine is his background in critical theory, he ends up either talking a lot about historical developments around the time which are often inconsequential to the pieces at hand, or talking about the pieces/buildings in extremely general ways. Things that you could have come up with if you just sat in your room with a friend and asked them to describe the picture they're looking at. He also has a tendency to talk about aspects of buildings/objects that he does not have images for, so you're just left with pieces of random trivia that don't really mean anything. Someone is also going to call me a racist for this, but I believe what I'm about to say is an objective observation that I know more than 5 people in the class have agreed on: A lot of the stuff that he shows looks very, very similar. And he really seldom goes into a lot of detail about what differentiates those works from others and the significance of why certain pieces are being shown. As a result, you often walk away from class a little confused because you seem to just have been shown 30 bowls that look the same or 7 mosques that to an average person look identical. His aversion to making strong arguments makes this all the more confusing because you are probably not even going to be left with an idea to tie these together. Shalem definitely also has an issue with time management. He regularly spent way too much time in lectures giving general, objective descriptions of a few works before realizing that he had run out of time to discuss the meat of what he was supposed to show us. As a result, he would often spend the last 10 minutes of class fast forwarding through upwards of 20 slides (I really am not making this up). However, towards the end of the semester, he would just consistently continue to lecture overtime for 10-15 minutes, which I didn't mind but I could tell it was troublesome for some other people who had classes or activities afterwards. I really didn't have a bad time in this class, and I expect to get a straight A in this course, but it just was not terribly interesting or well presented because too many things looked the same. Or maybe they actually were very different but we were not told why they were different? I don't know, I guess I felt overall that if I had taken another class, I might have been able to walk away with more to show for it, instead of it having been an exercise in image recognition. Shalem is a pleasant guy, but I really feel like this course needs to be restructured a little.